Beltane Correspondences, Associations, and Traditions
Beltane is a special stop on the Wiccan Wheel of the Year. It is a Greater Sabbat and one of the most sacred days on the Wiccan calendar. It is a time when we honor the union of the Divine Couple—God and Goddess—and from this union it is said that all life springs forth.
Beltane is one of the most historically universal sabbats celebrated in the northern hemisphere, for many different cultures had some kind of fertility festival during this time of the year. It is intimately related to Samhain, which is on the exact opposite end of the Wheel of the Year. As Samhain is the sabbat for honoring death, Beltane is about celebrating life. It’s a sabbat a lot of Wiccans like to go all out for. Whether you are looking for ideas to incorporate into your ritual design, altar set-up, or in planning a Beltane gathering, you’ll find inspiration here.
Eve of April 30th/Day of May 1st
Time of Day:
Red and White, traditionally; Summery colors are also appropriate(lush greens, sky blue, etc.)
Phallic/Yonic symbols: the Maypole, wreaths, etc.; flowers in full bloom; fires.
Wand or Staff; Candles/fire
My Favorite Beltane Incense
My favorite Beltane incense is a simple blend. All you need is:
- 1 part ground sandalwood dust
- 1 part dried lavender buds
- 1/4 part ground, dried thyme
Mix them with a mortar and pestle to gently crush the buds and herbs, to help release their scents. Sprinkle on burning self-igniting incense charcoal in a proper censor.
The Beltane Altar
In my tradition, this is the time of year when the altar (if you can change its direction) is faced towards the South, the direction of the “noon” of the year. I love to load up the altar with candles, flowers and ribbons as well.
Red and white are the perfect colors for Beltane. Red is a solar color and symbolizes sexual energy, and white symbolizes purity. I love the way they look together on the altar, setting the scene with a big red altar cloth and loads of white flowers and buds.
I can’t get enough flowers on the altar. I like to make wreathes of flowers—either by gluing silk buds and leaves to small grapevine wreaths, or by making daisy chains with fresh flowers. I like to put them around things on the altar—at the base of candle holders, or set the cauldron or pentacle in a small wreath.
A beautiful addition to the altar is a bowl or cauldron of water. Float candles and flowers on the surface of the water—this makes a beautiful focal point for an evening ritual.
Tell Us About You?
Do you celebrate Beltane outdoors or indoors?
Goddesses honored at Beltane are generally Mother Goddess types, and are associated with love and/or fertility. Aphrodite or Venus represent the lover/mother. The Norse Goddess Freya is also a fertility Goddess associated with love and sex. Flora, the Roman Goddess, was also honored in early May.
Gods associated with the Beltane sabbat include Sun Gods and Fertility Gods. Gods like the Greek Pan, prime fertility God, or Dionysus/Baccus (Greek/Roman respectively) who is the God of the fields and the ripening vine. The Celtic God Cernunos, God of the wild and the forest, is honored at this time. The Celtic Bel or the Norse Sol are Sun Gods you may give a prominent place on the altar. Ra, Egyptian God of the Sun, is also appropriate.
Though not historically considered Gods and Goddesses, many Pagans honor Sheila-Na-Gig and the Green Man. This is a great way to go if you’re looking to plan a more “generic” celebration to appeal to all types of theists, or even pantheists/agnostics. Sheila-Na-Gig is an explicit fertility symbol that has long been honored in Celtic fertility rites; she was so important to the people of ancient Ireland that her image was even found in churches long after Christianization—and considering her image is that of a woman holding open her vagina, her presence is quite surprising. The Green Man is the God of the wild most closely associated with Summer and the greening of the land.
Jack in the Green!
Deck the halls with flowers (wreaths, garland, and bouquets), bold colors, fertility symbols, and solar symbols. That’s all you need to bring Beltane into the room.
Of course, if you're going outdoors for Beltane, a bonfire or May pole will set the atmosphere perfection. Mother Nature will take care of the rest.
If I’m setting up an outdoor altar, I like to set it up in front of a tree with low-hanging branches. The kids and I will make floral chains and wreaths, herbal sachets with ribbons and other natural decorations and hang them on the tree for decoration.
Don’t just adorn the location—adorn yourself! Lots of people like to dress up for Beltane. Women don colorful dresses and skirts, weaving ribbons and flowers in their hair or wearing floral wreaths on their heads. Men put on capes or vests, may wear vine wreaths or Green Man masks. Some people may don costumes of mythological significance or dress up like forest animals.
Erecting the May Pole
Food and Drink
Traditionally a time for feasting, some foods you might serve for Beltane include ripe seasonal fruits (strawberries, melons, and cherries), refreshing dairy (yogurts, dips, cold soups), salads, and raw veggie platters.
Since we almost always celebrate with a picnic, I usually pack foods like fried chicken or chicken salad, cole slaw, and my husband's very popular potato salad.
For the altar, oatcakes are perfect for cakes and ale.
As a beverage, go with a May wine such as dandelion wine or fruit wine, or try making a rich punch full of mixed crushed fruits or sherbets. If all else fails, you can't go wrong with a delicious sun-steeped tea served over ice—I like to add loads of fresh lemon balm and stevia to ours.
Music for Beltane
Beltane Power Chant
We are the weavers, we are the woven ones
We are the dreamers, we are the dream
We are spiraling into the center; the center of the wheel
Spells and Magic
Beltane has an extremely potent energy that is best served in acts of constructive magic. Take advantage of it and plan to cast a spell for Beltane! It’s a great time for spells involving love, sex, romance, fertility, relationships, crops and gardening, protecting your property or interests, creativity, wealth and prosperity.
Some great methods for Beltane magic include candle magic or magic that involves weaving. Just think of it as weaving your hopes and dreams with your own hands.
A blessed Beltane to all!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2014 Mackenzie Sage Wright